Pigmented Archival UV Inks for fine art giclée printing
How can you avoid having your nice inkjet print fade? What inks are best for UV protection? Ilford Archival, EnduraChrome from Colorspan, Gold inks from American Ink Jet Corporation? Its not good for repeat business if your expensive prints lose their color after a few weeks on the wall.
Here is a display print which has been on a wall for several months. More than that, this is in Guatemala, where you get plenty of tropical sunlight. And it is unlikely that the fluorescent lighting is UV shielded either. Yet this print still displays its original colors. So what ink offers these results?
This print is from the Ilford OEM version of an Encad 600-series. I presume we were using Archival inks, as this was printed at the German offices of Ilford Imaging, outside Frankfurt. The print was made in summer '99.The print was still looking just fine when I last saw it in late summer 2002. The print has no lamination whatsoever.
The picture is a direct digital rollout photograph of a 10th century pre-Columbian vase in the Museo Popol Vuh, a photograph by Nicholas Hellmuth from the FLAAR Photo Archive. It hangs on the wall of the Rector's office, Universidad Francisco Marroquin. FLAAR has its test, evaluation, and review center to cover the Latin American market at this university. We will check in again this summer and see how the print is holding up. If you go to www.wide-format-printers.org you can see other color ink jet prints there.
Ilford inks are known throughout the industry for their long-lasting qualities. Actually the ink here is only one of the fine inks from Ilford. They now have a newer ink that lasts even longer. Endurachrome inks from Colorspan are talked about as well but until they are available in our own facility we cannot judge them. If you work with ICC profiles, be sure to get this information as well.
The fasting fading prints in the world are those of Epson desktop printers, their infamous "fast fade" inks or "disappearing inks." Epson prints we had on a wall, with shielded fluorescent lights, with no window to the outside whatsoever (so no sunlight, not even indirect), faded after a few months. We have read reports of Epson inkjet prints fading within a day if put outside in the full sun.
The FLAAR testing program does not involve any accelerated tests, no fancy instruments. Furthermore, we do not ask for, nor accept, money from ink manufacturers for longevity estimates.
Instead we use real-life situations, namely we hang an actual wide format inkjet print on an actual wall in a real office. We have prints from an Encad NovaJetPro, using Encad GA inks circa 1997, and the pictures are still hanging on the wall at the Museo Popol Vuh in Guatemala. The images are unlikely still in their original brilliance, since GA inks are not intended to be archival. Thus a 3-year lifespan already exceeds their advertised life cycle. If we had used Encad GO inks and on the specific paper that this ink is intended to be used with, the prints will last for decades. I should add that the Encad GO inks offer a wide color spectrum and no one who viewed the GO pictures noticed they were with an outdoor ink (most people consider that outdoor inks, that is usually pigmented inks, have colors which are less vibrant). I can only say that the Encad GO inks are more than colorful enough to attract attention, which, after all, is the goal of a poster or sign.
But the newer pigmented inks from Encad and especially from Ilford are even better nowadays.
If you wish up to 6 free FLAAR First Level Reports, fill out the inquiry-survey form, let us know what kind of printing you are interested in, specify what printers you wish to know about, and we will respond with the appropriate information.
Where to buy your longer-lasting inks?
Generations inks are considered archival as well. The better inks are made to work with specific papers. Thus, if you select Archiva inks from Ilford Imaging (a good choice), then you get the best results if you also use media from Ilford. Ilford also makes an ingenious four-color set of inks to produce monochrome black (that's right, four different flavors of black to produce a naturally better black). Ilford is the only company that has worked this out. Since Ilford is a world leader in black-and-white photography with traditional film, it is perhaps natural that Ilford would become a leader in the digital arena as well. Ilford inks also work well with Hahnemuehle watercolor papers, available from Dia-Nielsen USA
MIS inks are another in the rapidly growing list of "archival" inks. Archival means that they don't fade as fast as Epson inks. Archival means that by the time the colors do fade you and your company won't have to worry about it because it will be in the next century. We do not recommend that you simply buy inks and try them. This is because each ink reacts differently to every different kind of media. You need ICC profiles to get proper results. Thus it is best to get your inks and media together from the same place. That way their technical staff can assist you with the color management aspects.
If you have an Epson 3000, 7000, or 9000 printer, then you can use after-market inks. However if you have an Epson 7500, 9500, or 10000, no after-market inks will work other than Staedtler inks for the Epson 7500 and 9500.
Take longevity with a grain of salt. The "tests" are estimates. The tests are based on light levels in a semi-darkened museum setting. If your prints will be displayed with actual lights in an office or a place that has normal lighting, the print will fade more quickly. If your prints get sunlight, and if they are placed outside, then check on the 3M guarantees. When you get a written guarantee you know that the prints will really last that long. How many of the test institutes offer a written money-back guarantee???
Nonetheless, all color fades, even from a 4-color press. If you wish a candid review of some of the longevity claims which are touted in advertising claims.
If you want the newer inks that do last longer, peruse the following list.
American Ink Jet Corporation, Gold Inks
Archival, inks from Ilford Imaging
Ilford makes outstanding inks. Since Ilford is strong in the black and white photo market they have developed a "4-color black-and-white" inkset for wide format inkjet printers
ColorSpan EnduraChrome and other ColorSpan Inks
EnduraChrome are long-lasting dye inks (as opposed to fast fade dye inks made infamous by early Epson printers). PermaChrome are ColorSpan's pigmented inks. Ultra Wide Gamut Dye are for their ColorSpan DesignWinder giclée printer as well as older Displaymaker HiRes 8-color printer.
DuPont has come out with some especially nice inks for Encad (DuPont Fusion, to replace the old Encad GO inks).
We do not have experience with these inks.
Lyson makes Fotonic photo inks, small gamut inkset, and lots more. Popular inks for fine art giclée printmakers, include Lyson Quadtone black inks (four inks to create a richer black and white image).
Each ink works differently with every media or watercolor paper. So buying low bid from some PO Box company will result in lots of wasted material. We recommend you stick with a place who knows fine art giclée photography, printing, proofing, and color management with ICC color profiles.
FLAAR uses an Iris 3047 giclée printer, Ixia model, a Mimaki JV4, and several HP printers, as well as two different ColorSpan printers: one equipped with quad-black combined with seven colors (total of 11 inks); the other equipped with 12 different colors (one of which is black). FLAAR does most of the printing for the art department faculty and students on our university campus. We occasionally use an Epson 7500 when we get a request for this. We do not have any recent model Epson printer. Nonetheless, many home users prefer to start with an Epson 7600 or Epson 2200.
If you are considering a Roland, you might like to check the Epson 10600 (tip, Roland, Epson, Mutoh, and Mimaki use the identical printheads (from Epson), but we get more persistent complaints about banding on Roland printers of all models than we do on Epson printers).
Last updated August 6, 2012. Previously updated Jan. 6, 2003.
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